Solon (b. 630 — d. 560 B.C.)
Solon, the Athenian statesman, is known as one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. He ended exclusive aristocratic control of the government, substituted a system of control by the wealthy, and introduced a new and more humane law code. He was also a noted poet.
Unfortunately it was not until the 5"1 century B.C. that accounts of his life and works began to be put together, mostly on the evidence of his poems and his law code. Although certain details have a legendary ring, the main features of his story seem to be reliable.
Solon was of noble descent but moderate means. He first became prominent in about 600 B.C. The early 6lh century was a troubled time for the Athenians. Society was dominated by an aristocracy of birth, who owned the best land, monopolized the government, and were themselves split into rival factions. The social, economic, and political evils might well have culminated in a revolution and subsequent tyranny (dictatorship), as they had in other Greek states, had it not been for Solon, to whom Athenians of all classes turned in the hope of a generally satisfactory solution of their problems. Because he believed in moderation and in an ordered society in which each class had its proper place arid function, his solution was not revolution but reform.
Solon's great contribution to the future good of Athens was his new code of laws. The first written code at Athens, that of Draco, was still in force. Draco's laws were shockingly severe (hence the term draconian), so severe that they were said to have been written not in ink but in blood. On the civil side they permitted enslavement for debt, and death seems to have been the penalty for almost all criminal offenses. Solon revised every statute except that on homicide and made Athenian law altogether more humane.
Date: 2015-02-16; view: 1497